Suffolk’s most senior bishop has backed a deal between the Government and Church of England to use churches to improve rural mobile phones and broadband services.
An accord between the Church and the Departments for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was signed on Sunday to encourage churches and other church buildings to host mobile and wi-fi masts.
The Rt Revd Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich,said: “Supporting our rural communities by increasing connectivity both for villagers and businesses, is an issue I have been lobbying on for a while behind the scenes with others nationally.
“I am delighted with this new agreement and encourage churches in Suffolk to consider this. Our churches are at the heart of the communities they serve and this is another way as Christians we can make a difference.
“Any work needs to be very sensitive to our beautiful grade I and II* listed churches. But it can be achieved well as we have seen in Suffolk already.”
Ingham church is having a broadband and mobile phone antenna installed and churches in Bures, Ipswich St Thomas, Holbrook and Felixstowe St John host mobile phone antenna. More have broadband antenna on the tower.
With 65 per cent of Anglican churches in rural areas, they were an obvious choice, but guidance set out by the Church and Historic England ensures antenna do not impact on their character and architectural or historic significance.
DCMS Secretary of State and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock said: “Churches are central features and valued assets for local communities.
“This agreement with the Church of England will mean that even a 15th century building can help make Britain fit for the future improving people’s lives by boosting connectivity in some of our hardest-to-reach areas.”
Rural Affairs Minister Lord Gardiner said: “It is vitally important people living in the countryside have the same opportunities as those in urban areas, and that means having strong mobile and broadband infrastructures in place.
“This initiative marks an important step in our continued drive to connect better our rural communities and bridge the digital divide.”